Saturday, December 9, 2023

Error 404: Magic Not Found

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Season Three, babyyyyyy. Magic may be gone, but The Magicians are back and ready to go questing.


It’s been how long since the end of magic as we know it? Well, that’s depressing. Quentin and Julia have holed up in some sort of lab. Since Julia is the only one with a spark of magic left to her, the plan as of now is to attempt to reverse engineer magic. No biggie.

Of all the places to end up, a suit-clad Penny finds himself chained to a chair in a weird garage. Apparently, he was there to retrieve yet another book back for the Library of the Neitherlands. You know, until he got whacked by some doomsday-prepper type. This nutjob thinks he can get magic back by reverse engineering magical creatures. Turns out they’re the only lifeform still capable of magic in this post-Ember world. Penny apparates out of there lickedy-split, showing off that he’s miraculously held onto his Travelling abilities.

Turns out the Library is well and truly fucked. By all appearances, it seems to just be a cold rock breaking apart in outer space? Floating towards a black hole? So there’s that. Also, Penny and Kady are an item again. That’s the good news. The bad news? Penny still has magical cancer. Considering the whole “magic-got-switched-off” thing, it doesn’t seem like the folks at Brakebills will be finding a cure for him anytime soon. But Kady might have a cure-all hidden in her back pocket. Marlee Matlin, the deaf hedgewitch from last season, is ready to give Kady the secret to curing Penny. It comes at the price of Penny betraying the Library, however.

Back at Brakebills, Dean Fogg is now truly blind. Poor dude can’t seem to catch a break. He gets paid a visit by some lady on the Brakebills board of directors. Fogg has been doing his damnedest to teach magicians who still want to be taught, but it’s not enough. The board will close down Brakebills in favor of giving the funding to someone like Mayakovsky. Someone who can find a cure to magic. She suggests that the only way they will keep funding the school is if Fogg turns the students onto researching the magic problem… and getting results.

The fairies have Fillory, and the Fairy Queen has Margot right where she wants her: in her pocket. Not only are they literally invisible to the rest of the court, the Queen seems to have eyes everywhere. Eliot and Margot can’t make a move without it getting back to her. Seems as though the Queen has been using Margot’s amputated eye as a magical token to spy on her.

Stumped on both the fairy and the no-magic issue, Eliot decides to consult the Good Book: Fillory and Further. He gets the idea to petition the White Lady for help on the fairy problem. Instead, he gets the Great Cock of the Darkling Woods. Hey, beggars can’t be choosers, and the Great Cock is ready to hear Eliot out. But rather than just meddling with the fairies, the Cock thinks it a better idea to strike at the heart of the issue: magic. The Cock wants to send Eliot and the gang on an epic quest to find seven keys which will basically unlock magic. Neato.

Meanwhile in New York, Quentin and Julia are on a mission to find a god. Any god, so long as they’ll give them a chance to petition the Old Gods into turning the magic switch back on. With some help from Josh, Q and Julia track down a Party God who feeds off partygoer adoration. Once they finally get drunk enough to enter the party, they have an audience with the party god. They barely get out the bit where Quentin killed Ember and magic is gone before he’s off to the next thing. He slips some drugs into Quentin’s mouth before he ditches, and Q hallucinates the day when Alice left Brakebills. Now sufficiently inebriated, Q tries again with the Party God. This time gets a small something out of him: there might be a back door to magic. Oh hey. That sounds familiar.

Now, you may be asking yourself… where is Alice in all of this? Having her blood sucked, obviously. She’s on the run from the Lamphrey still, and whatever this vampire has to offer will keep it just a little further at bay.

Elliot then sends Quentin a message via bunny? Yeah, sure. Because everyone knows bunnies are interdimensional travelers. Time to get the team back together. Again. It turns out the first key is in Fillory… technically. It’s more Further than Fillory. Hope someone in the gang knows how to tie a good knot. We’re going on a little boat trip.


If Season Two was a holiday from the book material, it looks like we’re back on track for a visit. Only things couldn’t be more topsy-turvy. If you’ve made it this far into the show and still plan on reading the books, beware, there be spoilers ahead.

The titular Quest for the Seven Keys for which this episode is named after is the plot which wholly consumes Lev Grossman’s The Magician King, the second installment in his trilogy. However, for canonical Q and the gang, the adventure starts in Fillory. The Magician King cuts in a few years after Quentin makes the choice to return to Fillory to rule alongside Eliot and Margot. This is after Alice dies in vanquishing the Beast in book one. Fat on Fillorian wealth, Quentin gets stir-crazy enough to visit some distant Fillorian island that’s been skimping out on taxes.

In going to the far most reaches of the world to satiate his boredom, he comes across a very real magical quest. Together with Julia, he finds a magical key which opens a door onto another world… their world. And just like that, Quentin and Juliet are chucked out of Fillory. It’s a long trip back. Once they finally make it, most of the second book concerns itself with Q and the gang traversing the Fillorian sea in search for the rest of these keys. It’s all very Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Long story short: Q and the gang complete the entire Seven Keys quest sans Alice, and with magic still very much a real thing. In fact, it’s not until the gang finds all the keys that the magic breaking occurs.

It will be interesting to see the show tackle these two very different plot lines simultaneously. So much of Q’s journey in The Magician King is motivated from that familiar yearning for something greater than himself. To be a hero. Without magic, Quentin’s motivation becomes to find what makes him whole. I suppose splicing these timelines might also wind up splicing these themes into one.

In breaking pace with the show by taking the gang to yet another location – the Fillorian sea – I think the hope here is to give the show a bit of a facelift. In many ways, the Second Season wound up convoluting things needlessly. I just hope they take their time with the Quest. The worst thing they could do is pull another Beast battle 2.0 on us, and plop what was originally a climactic ending in the book smack dab in the middle of the season.


Images courtesy of SyFy


  • Shailyn

    Shailyn Cotten is a New York-based novelist, screenwriter, and undergraduate studying film at the School of Visual Arts. If you can’t find her perusing used bookstores, or buying up games in a Steam sale that she likely won’t ever play, you might be able to find her doing something productive, like writing articles for The Fandomentals, creating content for her YouTube channel Shai, or writing blog posts for her website,

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